The hotly anticipated report into apparent violations of lockdown measures by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has found that there were “serious failures” of judgment and leadership in hosting events in Number 10 Downing Street during the pandemic.
The initial report, which has been curtailed amid an ongoing police investigation launched by Met Police Chief Cressida Dick, was published on Monday afternoon by civil servant Sue Gray, who admits that she is “extremely limited” in what she can reveal about the alleged lockdown violations because of the police investigation.
The government has been accused of breaching the very lockdown restrictions it expected the nation to abide by, through hosting several boozy parties in the Prime Minister’s residence at Number 10 Downing Street. The government has maintained that the parties were mostly “work-related” events.
However, in her report, Ms Gray said: “Against the backdrop of the pandemic, when the government was asking citizens to accept far-reaching restrictions on their lives, some of the behaviour surrounding these gatherings is difficult to justify.”
“At least some of the gatherings in question represent a serious failure to observe not just the high standards expected of those working at the heart of government but also of the standards expected of the entire British population at the time.
“At times it seems there was too little thought given to what was happening across the country in considering the appropriateness of some of these gatherings, the risks they presented to public health and how they might appear to the public.
“The excessive consumption of alcohol is not appropriate in a professional workplace at any time. Steps must be taken to ensure that every Government Department has a clear and robust policy in place covering the consumption of alcohol in the workplace.”
The civil servant did caveat that the Number 10 Downing Street has grown in “size, scale and range of responsibility” to the extent that it is “now more akin to a small Government Department than purely a dedicated Prime Minister’s office”.
Sue Gray said that because of this, there has been a “blurring of lines of accountability” in terms of controlling the functions of the office.
“Too much responsibility and expectation is placed on the senior official whose principal function is the direct support of the Prime Minister. This should be addressed as a matter of priority,” she wrote.
She also noted that carrying out the work of government was difficult under the lockdown rules, but went on to admit that normal Britons faced even more difficulties, saying: “Those challenges, however, also applied to key and frontline workers across the country who were working under equally, if not more, demanding conditions, often at risk to their own health.
“It is important to remember the stringency of the public health regulations in force in England over the relevant periods and that criminal sanctions were applied to many found to be in breach of them.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is expected to address the House of Commons at 3:30 pm to discuss the report, has been facing calls from across the political spectrum — including from within his own party — to resign over the apparent lockdown hypocrisy.
This story is developing, updates to follow…